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Mexican-American War (1846-1848)


LEADING TO THE WAR


BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO (April 21, 1836)

  • See Texas entry

  • Sam Houston led the expedition

  • American Texians defeated the Mexican forces of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto

  • Santa Anna was kidnapped

  • And forced to recognize the Rio Grande River as the border between the U.S. and Mexico

  • Mexicans back home, however, insisted that the true border was at the Nueces River

  • Both Mexico and the U.S. sent troops to the region

OREGON

  • Oregon was jointly occupied by the U.S. and Great Britain

  • When Polk came to power, he negotiated with Britain to split the territory aat the 49th parallel

  • Despite his campaign promises of "54 40 or fight!"

  • Through Oregon Treaty of Jun. 15 1846

  • Divided at 49th parallel

  • US got Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Montana (1846)

CALIFORNIA

  • Polk wanted to add California to the Union

  • Especially San Francisco Bay

  • To open US trade with Asia

  • But Mexico had strong territorial claims to California

  • Chain of missions and forts

  • Combination

  • Of claims to California

  • And troops in Texas

  • Led to conflict with Mexico

MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR

FIRST ATTEMPTS AT NEGOTIATION


  • Polk first attempted to smooth relations with Mexico

  • By sending an envoy (John Slidell)

  • And canceling Mexico’s debt to the US

  • In return for Texas

  • And the Rio Grande boundary

  • Then offered to buy California and New Mexico

  • For around $25/$30 million

  • The Mexicans were insulted by such a low offer

  • Sent Slidell packing (as Polk anticipated)

U.S. SENT "EXPEDITIONS" TO MEXICO


  • At the same time

  • Polk sent John Fremont to California

  • Supposedly on a scientific survey mission

  • Only 700 Americans among 6,000 californios (Spanish Californians) were living there.

  • Fremont declared California a republic and adopted bear as symbol.

  • US navy ships sailed to the California Coast and ended republic.

  • General Stephen W. Kearney

  • With 1,600 troops, he occupied Santa Fe without resistance then went to southern California and put down Mexican uprising against American rule

  • He also sent General Zachary Taylor and 2,000 troops

  • To the Rio Grande

  • As expected, Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande

  • Attacking Taylor’s men

  • Polk claimed Mexicans had "shed blood on American soil'

  • This was enough to prompt Congress to declare war (Polk’s plan)


WAR WITH MEXICO

  • Most of fighting occurred in central Mexico.

  • Feb. 1847

  • Zachary Taylor defeated Santa Anna's army (Battle of Buena Vista)

  • Mexican government didn't negotiate.

  • Sep. 1847

  • General Winfield Scott sent to march inland from port of Veracruz to Mexico City.

  • Occupied the capital (Mexico City) in Sept. 1847.

  • Ended the war

  • Feb. 1848

  • ​Both sides agreed to Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

TREATY OF GUADELOUPE HIDALGO, 1848

  • Negotiated by Nicholas Trist (after he had been fired by Polk)

  • Trist ignored Polk's instructions and didn't ask for Baja California because he was ashamed of America's role in the war.

  • Confirmed annexation of Texas

  • Ceded California and present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah to the U.S (Called the "Mexican Cession")

  • Guaranteed "male citizens" the "free enjoyment of their liberty and property" and "all rights of Americans (to protect large Mexican landowners)

  • U.S. government agreed to settle claims of its citizens against Mexico ($3.2 million)

  • And pay Mexico $15 million for all lands acquired (same amount as Louisiana Purchase)


COST OF WAR

  • War cost U.S. $98 million

  • 12-13,000 Americans died (most from disease)

  • 50,000 Mexicans died

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR/AGAINST

MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR

SUPPORTERS OF WAR

  • Southern planters supported war because they were eager to spread slavery to the West

CRITICS OF THE WAR

  • Mostly from New England

  • And Whigs in Congress

  • Who said that Polk (a Jacksonian Democrat)

  • Had provoked an unnecessary war

  • And usurped the power of Congress

  • Critics complained that this was not a moral battle

  • Americans had fought for independence, freedom for oppression and save democracy

  • But this was a selfish battle

  • Fought to fulfill Manifest Destiny

  • And expand and acquire more land.

  • John Quincy Adams denounced war

  • Henry David Thoreau transcendentalist writer who denounced war.

  • Thoreau was thrown in jail because he refused to pay taxes that would be used to pay for the "imperialist war"

  • Wrote "On Civil Disobedience"

  • Argued that not all civil laws are just

  • And that humans have an obligation to obey a higher law.

  • Urged others to follow his lead and refuse to pay taxes.

  • The book inspired later advocates of nonviolent resistance (like Martin Luther King)

  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Lincoln was Congressman from Illinois at the time.

  • Called Polk's justification the "half insane mumbling of a fever-dream"

  • Questioned whether Mexicans actually inflicted casualties on American soil.

  • Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison

  • Argued war was waged simply to extend slavery to the West

  • And render slavery secure in Texas.

  • Racists feared that the nation couldn't assimilate non-white Catholics

WHAT TO DO WITH NEW TERRITORY

WILMOT PROVISO

  • House of Representatives was anti-slave

  • Tried to pass the Wilmot Proviso in 1846

  • Declaring that slavery would not be permitted in any states that came from Mexican territory

  • Senate was pro-slave (showed balance slightly in favor of slave states)

  • Prevented the Wilmot Proviso from passing

Other suggestions

  • Extending Missouri Compromise to the Pacific

  • Or “popular sovereignty”

  • Letting local settlers decide

See "Leading to the Civil War"

GOLD RUSH

  • The discovery of gold in California complicated matters

  • By 1849

  • Gold diggers (called 49ers) rushed into the area from all over the world

  • 25,000 Americans came by ship

  • 55,000 Americans crossed the continent

  • 8,000 Mexicans showed up

  • 5,000 South Americans

  • And a number of Europeans and Asians

  • Came to make their fortunes

  • Leaving San Francisco a Ghost Town

  • So many people came

  • That California could easily apply for statehood

  • And they did

  • As a free state

  • So that they wouldn’t have to compete with slave owners

  • For the gold

  • This created another problem

  • If California is a free state

  • How will the rest of the territory be decided?

COMPROMISE OF 1850

  • Based on Henry Clay's "Omnibus Bill"

  • Package of five separate bills passed Sept. 1850

  • California admitted as free state

  • Borders of Texas settled

  • Texas had claimed territory beyond Santa Fe

  • The only logical capital to New Mexico)

  • Compromise forced Texas to give up claims

  • Strengthened Fugitive Slave Law (1851)

  • ​Revised 1793 Fugitive Slave aw

  • Now federal commissioners can issue warrants

  • And compel citizens to help capture fugitives or be fined/imprisoned

  • Utah, New Mexico slave status to be decided by popular sovereignty

  • Slave trade (but not slavery) ended in capitol, Washington DC

  • Compromise only possible because of death of President Zachary Taylor.

TRANS-CONTINENTAL RAILROAD

  • After acquisition of Oregon and California --> desire for transcontinental railroad

  • Question: Where? North or South?

  • If in South

  • Beginning in St. Louis, Memphis or New Orleans (slave regions)

  • Needed to get just a small piece of territory from Mexico

  • Gadsden purchase (1852) -- bought for $10 million from Mexico

  • But abolitionists knew a southern railroad would spread slavery

  • If in North

  • Starting in Chicago, Illinois (proposed by Illinois senator Stephen Douglas)

  • Through unorganized territory west of Mississippi River

  • But territories would have to become states (see Kansas-Nebraska Act)

KANSAS NEBRASKA ACT

  • Proposed by Congress in May 1854

  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • Allowed the people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska

  • To decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery (popular sovereignty)

  • Southern Democrats and Whigs

  • Jumped at opportunity to open northern territories to slavery

  • Quickly passed act

  • Northerners

  • Outraged that Act effectively revoked Missouri Compromise of 1820

  • Which banned slavery north of 36 30

BLEEDING KANSAS

  • Result of Kansas-Nebraska Act (See above)

BORDER RUFFIANS (Pro-Slavery)

  • 1000s of proslavery Missourians crossed to Kansas

  • Claimed as much land as they could - in order to make Kansas slave territory

  • These pro-slavery “Border Ruffians”

  • Rigged elections

  • And recruited friends and family in Missouri to cast illegal ballots

  • Or voted multiple times

  • Or threatened indifferent settlers to vote for slavery

NORTHERN ABOLITIONISTS

  • Also flocked to Kansas to establish free-soil towns

POTTAWATOMIE VIOLENCE

  • Border Ruffians burned free-soil (anti-slavery) town of Lawrence

  • In retaliation

  • Abolitionist John Brown killed five pro-slavery settlers

  • Inn Pottawatomie Massacre

  • John Brown not punished

JOHN BROWN AND HARPER'S FERRY VIRGINIA

  • John Brown raided US arsenal at Harper's Ferry

  • Hoping to seize cache of weapons in order to arm slave rebellion

  • But plan failed, Brown captured by marines.

  • Brown tried for treason

  • Gave speech

"I wanted to free the slaves, that was all I intended, I never intended murder or make an insurrection. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done! "

John Brown

  • John Brown hanged

  • Considered a martyr by abolitionists

  • And a crazed ax murderer to Southerners



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